The 2017 Oglethorpe University Commencement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 13 at 9:00 a.m. on the academic quad. Oglethorpe University President Lawrence M. Schall and Board of Trustees Chair Tim Tassopoulos, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A and an Oglethorpe alumnus, will preside over the commencement ceremony for approximately 200 graduates.
During the ceremony, Oglethorpe University will bestow the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on Comer Yates, executive director of the Atlanta Speech School, who will address the graduating class. His degree citation will be presented by his wife, Sally.
“Comer Yates is a true champion of education and literacy, leading efforts to positively impact the lives and well-being of children in Georgia and beyond,” said President Schall. “We share a commitment to ensuring that our younger generations and future leaders have the tools to allow them to succeed and thrive, in turn strengthening our entire community.”
Additional speakers will include Chris Rylands ’01, president of the Oglethorpe University National Alumni Association, and student leaders in the graduating class: Cale Coppage, senior class president; Chris Fernandez, Student Government Association president and speaking on behalf of traditional seniors; and Kathy Le, speaking on behalf of the non-traditional seniors.
Further details may be found on the Commencement website.
Comer Yates has been the Executive Director of the Atlanta Speech School for 19 years. The Speech School, founded 78 years ago as a free clinic for children who were deaf or hard of hearing, has evolved into the nation’s most comprehensive language and literacy center that consists of four schools, five clinics, and a professional development program. Through research based language and literacy instruction and intervention, each year, the School impacts the lives of approximately 1,400 children and adults at the Atlanta Speech School and thousands more throughout the State of Georgia and beyond.
Mr. Yates currently serves as Chair of the Georgia Commission on Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons. He is the Co-Chair for Georgia Pathway to Language and Literacy. He also serves on the cabinet of Get Georgia Reading, and is a member of Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald’s leadership team for Georgia’s Braintrust for Babies. He is also a former President of the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools. Mr. Yates is a Past President of the Board and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of Camp Twin Lakes, a recreational and therapeutic camp for children with serious illnesses and other life challenges.
During Mr. Yates’ tenure, the School has established its Rollins Center for Language & Literacy that provides professional development for teachers of children birth to age 8. The Center particularly focuses its efforts on the teachers of children from families caught in a generational lack of access to educational opportunity and the transactions that must happen in the classroom, the school climate, and engagement with parents to break the cycle of illiteracy and resulting poverty. The Speech School and the Rollins Center are currently partnering with approximately 100 public and private agencies—in and beyond our state—with the goal that by 2020 every young child in Georgia will be on a path to read proficiently by the end of third grade. To take its work to scale, through the support of the James M. Cox Foundation, the Rollins Center has developed the Cox Campus, a free, universally accessible interactive online community designed to provide a platform for translating its highly successful live model to an equally successful online format. Currently, over 17,000 teachers and others (from all 50 states and other countries) are registered on the Cox Campus.
Mr. Yates is a former high school teacher, practiced law for fifteen years, and was an adjunct professor at Emory Law School. He served as a volunteer for twenty years at Therrell High School in the Atlanta Public Schools, serving as its mock trial coach and founding Co-Chair of Therrell’s Summer Law Intern Program. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Atlanta Bar Association. He also received the WXIA Community Service Award for work with students at Therrell High School. Mr. Yates earned a bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from Emory University as a member of the Order of Coif, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Order of the Barristers. He and his wife Sally have two children.